Q and A: The Road to a 400 lb Deadlift?
Q: I know you are a busy guy but I thought you might be open to hearing from a long time reader and big time fan (not to mention a Canadian).
Today was max deadlift day. We use a 8-5-3-1 progression. I must admit I’m a beginner to heavy lifting so my numbers are a bit sub par, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? After reading about Cressey Performance’s ideology that any fit male should be able to pull a 400 deadlift with a little focus in training, I figure I have a lot to look forward to.
8 x 225
5 x 275
3 x 295
1 x 315
While I was able to pull 315 for a single, it came after two failed attempts and ended up being an ugly rep at that.
I guess I am just looking for some advice on how to progress towards a heavy single and perhaps how you would handle this as a coach. Would you see two fails and get a client to drop weight? If so by know much? 5,10lbs.
A: As always, thanks for reaching out and for the kind words. And, for the record, I have nothing against Canadians. Even though I live in Boston, and the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens are aboot (ha! Sorry) to butt heads in the first round of the NHL playoffs, I could care less. I’m not really a hockey fan anyways, so there’s no love lost on my end.
Besides, how can I make fun of a guy whose country has produced the likes of Elisha Cuthbert
and Rachel McAdams?
Okay, I’m going to break this down in list format because 1) I like lists, and 2) It’s my blog, and I feel like it.
1. I have a hard time understanding how you can call it a “max effort” deadlift day when you’re performing eight reps! To me, that’s cardio.
2. What’s more, lets break the numbers down to better illustrate my point. You mentioned that you’ve been following a 8-5-3-1 format – okay, so, by the time you actually attempted a heavy single, you had already lifted a combined total of 4,060 lbs.
Comparatively, lets use myself as an example: here’s how I personally approach a max effort lift.
We won’t count the reps at 135 lbs
225 x 3
315 x 3
405 x 1
465 x 1
495 x 1
??? x try not to destroy the back of my pants
If you crunch the numbers, by the time I even attempt anything above 500 lbs (my best pull is 570 lbs), I’ve only lifted a combined total of 2,985 lbs.
4,060 (you) – 2,985 (me) = 1,075 lbs MORE tonnage.
3. No wonder you missed your first two attempts – you were gassed by the time you got there!
Moreover, if you look at your increments, you did 295 for three reps, and then bumped it up 20 lbs and missed (twice), before hitting an (admittedly) ugly rep. That shouldn’t happen, and just demonstrates that your approach needs a little tweaking.
- You’re not strong enough yet to be missing reps (let alone multiple times). So, stop it. One of the biggest mistakes I see a lot of trainees make (particularly those who are new to lifting with heavier loads) is missing lifts on a regular basis. The rationale is to GO HEAVY OR GO HOME. While I can respect the mentality, you’re really doing nothing but frying your CNS (Central Nervous System) and accomplishing nothing other than not moving any weight.
- Ditch the 8-5-3-1 format. To be blunt, it’s retarded.
- Oh, snap – Evangeline Lilly is from Canada, too. Just an FYI
- At this point – given your 1RM is 315 lbs – I’d be reluctant to do any dedicated work above 90%. Something tells me you’d be best to stick with heavy triples and ensure your technique is rock solid.
- That said, for the next few months, I’d stick with your basic progressive overload template and just make sure you’re adding 5-10 lbs on your LAST set each month.
So, it may look something like this:
Week 1: 5×3
Week 2: 5×3
Same warm-up as above
Hopefully you get the general idea. You may very well be able to start with more weight, but I was just using this as an example. Just try to make a concerted effort to add a liiiiiitle more weight to the bar each and every week.
I have no doubts that if you follow this format, you’ll be pulling multiple sets of 315 for triples in no time. Once there, then (maybe) we can start opening up the discussion to incorporating heavy singles into the equation (90% + of your 1RM) and charge towards that 400 lb mark. But until then, keep it simple, use progressive overload (hey, it works!), hit ALL your reps, and tell Evangeline I said hello.
Hope that helps!